As digital marketers (whether by choice, or by proxy), we share a common goal: to increase conversions — with conversions being inquiries, applications, campus tour requests, donations, etc.
And while your website's first impression relies heavily on design, what you have to say matters, too.
It's kind of like walking into a job interview. You wouldn't just land a job because you wore a nice suit and had a solid handshake — just like how you can't score an inquiry because your website "looks cool." In both cases, you need to be able to hold a conversation, and sell value.
Here are eight really awesome tips for writing high-quality website content that converts users at every stage of their journey.
If terms like "Excellent Academics," "Outstanding Faculty," and "Make a Difference" are the focal point of your homepage, bring out the digital hacksaw and start over.
What makes your academics, excellent? What makes your faculty, outstanding? How do donations make a difference?
The issue most schools face when writing website content is that they lose the mini-stories that make up those broader taglines.
My best advice: Focus on the 5% that makes you special — and the applicants will come. More importantly, the right applicants.
In this example from St. Margaret's School in Virginia, you can see how — rather than focusing on the typical academics, athletics, arts jargon — St. Margaret's puts the emphasis on one major component of their school: its idyllic location.
Both the site's headline, sub-headline, and call-to-action are centered around the small boarding school's riverfront campus, driving traffic to this landing page.
Steal From Your Testimonials
Need help finding your real, authentic message?
Sometimes, our families say what we actually want them to say. Rather than tirelessly crafting the perfect marketing content alongside your colleagues, take a look at what's already been said by your students, parents, faculty, and alumni.
Take a look at this student testimonial from Lakeside School:
From it, we can gather a few facts about the experience at Lakeside:
- It's easy to make friends
- Your friends help you grow
- You'll always find friends with similar interests — meaning you'll always fit in
These kind of truths are the kind of things we, sitting in our marketing office, can't come up with on our own — but they should be the very core of our messaging.
Why say something in three paragraphs that can be said in three sentences, or even three words. Because users will spend an average of two minutes on your website, you're going to want to get to the point — and get there fast.
Use Action Words
Call-to-action buttons are meant to do just that — prompt an action. Avoid using terms like "Application" or "Inquiry Form" as button text. Rather, write "Apply Now" or "Inquire."
Adding "us" to the calls-to-action, as Collingwood School does, makes them feel just a little more personal, too.
Follow Fitt's Law
No — I'm not throwing physics at you. Fitt's Law proposes that the time required to move your mouse to a target area (like a sign-up button) is a function of (1) distance to the target and (2) size of the target.
In short, this means you can increase click-through rates to a desired page/form by making the target large (such as using a large button) and placing it near the expected mouse location.
The best example to share is from Lausanne Collegiate School's homepage. In their panel, "The Lausanne Way" a large "Learn More" button is located directly underneath the content — making it both easy to see, and quickly accessible on desktop and mobile.
Optimize Your Page Titles
Part of writing website content is writing it for its appearance in other places besides your website — such as in Google Search or on social media. As you write your Page Titles and Meta Descriptions (called SEO Titles and SEO descriptions if you use Composer), consider what you would want people to see elsewhere.
Similarly, consider the length and clarity of your news headlines. When it comes to news headlines (or blog headlines) it's better to be clear and direct, than crafty — or in many cases, vague.
A headline like "Parents Weekend" is going to see far less engagement than "Join Your Children for a Day On Campus!" The second headline is actionable and direct, rather than vague.
Don't Let Nouns Stand Solo in a Headline
Looking for a quick pro tip to enhance all your news titles, without needing to get super creative? Always write your news titles with a verb, not just a noun. While writing this blog post, I looked at more than 30 school websites trying to find examples of great headlines, and noticed that the majority of schools just use nouns like "Fall Concert" as their news headlines.
Compare "Fall Concert," to "Cheer On Classmates at Our Fall Concert!" The latter is much more engaging, right?
Headlines are meant to entice your users to click — and being vague doesn't pose some great mystery that encourages them to click. It bores them.
Green Vale School does an excellent job with their news headlines:
Stop Talking About Yourself
One of the best pieces of advice I've ever received (and now I'm going to share it with you!) is to stop talking about yourself.
Imagine this: you're at a cocktail party, and someone walks up to you and asks you about your life, and your family. You could probably go on and on, right? But, if someone walked up to you, and just started talking about themselves...you'd probably zone out a bit.
Consider this concept for your school's website. Don't just talk about what you offer, but what your students gain from what you offer.
Take a look at International School of Boston's website.
Rather than saying "we offer a creative and caring learning environment" or "we help you develop skills for life," their headlines begin with the action of the student, making it much more compelling.
In order to be able to write like this, it does take some practice. But, here's a quick easy three-question series to help get you there:
- What do we offer?
- What makes that special?
- How does this improve the lives of our families?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As Finalsite's Content Marketing Manager, Mia plans and executes a variety of inbound marketing and digital content strategies. As a former TV and news reporter, freelance cinematographer and certified inbound marketer, Mia specializes in helping schools find new ways to share their stories online through web design, social media, copywriting, photography and videography. She is the author of numerous blogs, and Finalsite's popular eBook, The Website Redesign Playbook.